Friday, August 28, 2009

...the power and authority of God's Word

As the issues surrounding the Emergent/Emerging Church continues to escalate, it is profitable and most necessary for us all to reaffirm, fill our hearts and fix our minds upon the Word of God. As the Psalmist reminds us, "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night" -Psalm 1:1-2.

Oh to be a skilled workman, unashamed, approved unto God (2 Tim. 2:15) armed with the sword of the Spirit!

“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” 1 Thess. 2:13.

The most effective weapon we possess as Christians for the work of the ministry is not pragmatic methodology, our TV shows, book clubs, music concerts, radio programs, our celebrities, famous pastors, or even our social alliances with other cultural moral entities--as effective as some of those things may be. The most effective weapon that any church or Christian possesses is the Word of God and the life lived in obedience to its claims. The church's responsibility before God as the "pillar and support of the truth" is to guard and proclaim the truths of Scripture. Consequently, the most severe crime against God is to mishandle His revelation, thus portraying a false, idolatrous image of Him to the world.

When our grip on the "sword of the Spirit" is loosened and our spiritual muscles have atrophied, the "once for all delivered to the saints faith" is hastily replaced by a saber of our own carnal invention. We cannot fight the good fight of faith with fleshly weaponry!

Measuring the Methods
There are five things that I use as a measuring rod when making a determination about the legitimacy of any ministry claiming to represent the Lord: the message, the motives, the methods, the messenger, and the money. In other words, does the message square with the Word of God; are the motives seemingly pure free from obvious false pretense; are the methods propitious and honorable; has the messenger demonstrated in the past and is currently exhibiting integrity of life and doctrine; and is money being touted as a prerequisite for ministry with an unnecessary emphasis in how it is being asked for or solicited?

The most difficult of these to evaluate is not the motives, but surprisingly the methods. Methods for most people are just the pragmatic means to get the message out more effectively to a broader audience. What could be wrong with that especially in our ever-changing pragmatic world? However, here is the problem; methods are not "a-moral." They mean something; more than that, they reveal something. A wrong use of methods--or a wrong emphasis on methods is what Charles Spurgeon fought against at the end of his life in what came to be known as the Down-Grade Controversy. He warned his Baptist brothers that using a worldly methodology would give entrance to a skewed theology and thus corrupt the gospel and the ministry. He was right.

We see this in our own day. For example, the Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN) carries on its programming schedule some orthodox teachers (i.e. Charles Stanley, Adrian Rogers, James Kennedy, etc.), and features also those who are unorthodox: the word/faith movement (Kenneth Copeland, Crefflo Dollar, etc.); or those who deny the Godhead--the Trinity (T.D. Jakes; Phillips, Craig and Dean); and/or those who "huckster the Word of God for profit" in order to generate more money for themselves (most everyone else on their programming schedule). The danger is, when you constantly publicize a mix of the genuine with the counterfeit it blurs the lines of sound doctrine and tends to anaesthetise the listener of discernment. Even those orthodox teachers, as mentioned above, end up unwittingly supporting the very thing they all oppose biblically. The listener enjoying the program most likely sends the lion-share of their support money not to the Bible teacher of the individual program, but to TBN. And if they have been "ministered to" by that program, they may even call TBN (per their toll free number) for spiritual counsel, prayer and direction. You forfeit on both counts: pragmatically--most of the "love gift" goes to the network; and spiritually--you have placed the members of your listening audience under the spiritual counsel of a phone operator. What would brother Spurgeon be saying about now?

The honest question has to be asked: can a unsound biblical vehicle like that one be spiritually profitable at all even if some of the time they get it right? Don't be fooled; it's not just another televsion network you can buy time on to promote your program. It is a well crafted "philosophy of ministry" with a very specific agenda that does not measure up with the Word of God. I agree with Dr. MacArthur when he has said on many occasions, "TBN has done more harm to the gospel than Jerry Springer. For a false representation of God is more damaging than a true display of sin." I fully agree with his insigthful words. Methodology matters; and just as important, the "who" you partner with in the work of the gospel as well.

The motives, the methods, the messengers, the money and the message. That is why Scripture must be treated with reverence and care because it is the self-revelation of God. It is from Scripture alone that we know who our Lord is and the fullness of His worth and works. We study God's Word to know our Lord. It is not so that we may have sermons to preach, songs to sing, testimonies to tell, but it is chiefly to know Him. And out of the depth of that knowing to make Him known.

Taking God Seriously
No one ever lives greater than their view of God and our view of God is determined, shaped, and formed by how He has revealed Himself through the pages of Scripture. (Cp. Psalm 50:16ff) Therefore, to fail to take God's Word seriously, whether by careless interpretation or by careless living, is to fail to take God Himself seriously. And if the church fails to take God seriously, why should the world?

Listen to these powerful words on the authority and veracity of God's Word:

"But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts" (1 Thess. 2:4).

"Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle" (2 Thess. 2:15).

"According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust" (1 Tim. 1:11).

"Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing" (1 Tim. 6:12-14).

"O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge" (1 Tim. 6:20).

"But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:14-16).

"But has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior" (Titus 1:3).

Post-Modern Procrustean Beds
In Greek mythology there is portrayed a villainous son named Procrustes, of his father Poseidon, who would arbitrarily prescribe ruthless, torturous phenomenon for patrons of his hostel. He would force his travelers to fit into his "procrustean bed" by stretching his victims or severing off their limbs. In much the same way today, there have been men throughout the ages that have tailored the truth of God's Word, having laid it upon the "procrustean beds" of deceived, depraved minds stretching its truth or lopping it off to suit their itching ears.

Scripture is replete with warnings against perverting God's Word, as well as exhortations to guard it. Deuteronomy 4:2 cautions, "You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." This same warning is echoed by the apostle John in Revelation 22:18-19, "I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book."

Like today's church, the believers in first century Ephesus also faced the temptation to compromise the truth of God's Word. Ephesus was a fervently pagan city, site of the temple of the goddess Diana (Artemis), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Having ministered there himself for three years (Acts 20:31), Paul was well aware of the pressures and temptations to compromise or abandon the truth facing the Ephesian church.

"As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus, in order that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (1 Tim. 1:3-5)

"This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith." (1 Tim. 1:18-19)

"But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness." (1 Tim. 4:1-7)

"Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching." (1 Tim. 4:13)

"Teach and preach these principles. If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain." (1 Tim. 6:2-5)

"The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also." (2 Tim. 2:2)

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness." (2 Tim. 2:15-16)

"I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith." (2 Tim. 4:1-5,7)

This is an undeniable standard of truth that the Apostle Paul is contending for in his day. He affirms to timid Timothy by command this same standard at the end of his life as he is waiting execution by Nero in a Roman jail. He says, "Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you" (2 Tim. 2:13-14). "Standard" here means that which was used of a writer's outline or an artist's rough sketch, which set the guidelines and standards for the finished work. The Christian's standard is God's Word, which encompasses the sound words which you have heard from me [Paul], an apostle of Jesus Christ. In Scripture we have God's own truth and standards, all we need for life or godliness. It is the only divinely inspired, divinely revealed, absolute, perfect and sufficient truth. In it is found everything necessary for salvation and for living out the saved life (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Take Courage in Ministry
Courage in Christian ministry, as well as in Christian living in general, is not possible apart from strong biblical convictions. Strong convictions are to be held and taught in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. When we defend God's Word in a self righteous, unloving spirit, the resulting controversy and opposition are not caused wholly by the offense of the truth itself but also by the offensive and unspiritual way in which we proclaim it. We are to defend God's Word in the faith, that is, with the right attitude of confidence toward God; and we are to defend it in love, with the right attitude of kindness and compassion.

The question still confronts us, why is biblical theology vital for the life of the church and the spiritual health of the believer? Why is it essential for the future survival of Christian music?

Answer: because sound doctrine clearly taught and obeyed will always produce godly living and bring glory to God; but unsound doctrine disseminated will be nothing more than gangrenous words to the body of Christ - producing nothing but poisoned, sinful lives. Even if expressed through the most gifted of orators or sung through the most stirring of melodies, in the end, it weakens the entire church!

Dumbed Down and Ineffective
We can see the effects of the dumbing-down of doctrine by the pervasive tolerance of another gospel which has resulted in redefining Biblical language. Sin is no longer called sin, but sickness; disobedience is now called disease; and adultery is simply referred to as addiction. This psychological sanctification has replaced the Scriptures and the work of the Holy Sprit in the predetermined work of God to conform us daily to Christ. "Sanctify them by Thy truth, [Jesus said,] Thy Word is truth." Only the truth of God's Word is sanctifying truth for all matters of life and godliness! "The sum of Thy Word is truth." We are to be "handling accurately the word of truth.¨ We are to proclaim "The word of truth, the gospel.¨ Why? For God has "exalted His Word even above His name."

When Ministers Forget the Scriptures
It is infinitely hazardous when the church embraces a Freudian anthropology justifying oneself for the purpose of abandoning personal responsibility (the abuse excuse) and allowing one to attach the blame outwardly to one's environment, or on Mom and Dad, rather than finding solutions that come from only God Himself. Giving people a sense of becoming and belonging, addressing felt needs instead of real needs is the "theology¡" of the hour. Churches now hire full time psychological counselors fortuitously replacing faithful pastors and elders who are the ones called by God to shepherd His flock! "Preach the Word" is no longer the mandate of men of God but rather, "Go ye into all the world and relate!" In other words, I must increase - He must decrease!

The Great Sea Change: the Rise of the Self
Os Guinness is spot on in his analysis when saying, "This sea change is a particularly important precedent because it was not so much from Calvinism to Arminianism as from theology to experience, from truth to technique, from elitism to populism, and from an emphasis on serving God, to an emphasis on serving the self in serving God."

He is devastatingly correct! Even at the seminary level that change is evident. Men are no longer being taught today to preach expositionally but experientially. The object of faith is no longer Christ but self-esteem; the goal of faith is no longer holiness, but happiness; the source of faith is no longer the Scriptures, but experience.

"A new religion has been initiated, which is no more Christianity than chalk is cheese; and this religion, being destitute of moral honesty, palms itself off as the old faith with slight improvements, and on this plea usurps pulpits which were erected for gospel preaching" (Spurgeon). "An aversion to doctrinal Christianity has been growing for several decades, along with an increasing intolerance for doctrinal and confessional accountability. Evangelicals have embraced the technologies of modernity, often without recognizing that these technologies have claimed the role of master rather that servant" (Mohler).

Church growth expert, George Barna, arguing for how the church must find new ways to reach a post-church generation with the gospel, says, "Busters do not believe in absolute truth. This means that they, for the most part, reject the Bible as having any real answers. Thus, proposing Jesus Christ as the solution to a person's sin problem is not likely to make any significant impression." Did you hear that? Dear people, the gospel never begins with man and his need but with God and His glory. Truth by definition is exclusive. When we declare the Scriptures to be the truth and Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life, who is full of grace and truth, we are declaring that every other claim to the truth is false. Every other way is a dead end. Every other faith system asserting eternal life is a path leading to death. Crossover that! Make that seeker-friendly! Commercialism won't tolerate a God-conceived, Christ-centered message. Why? There is an offense to the cross (1 Cor. 1:18-31).

Theological Ebonics
In a culture where absolute truth is considered obsolete it's only inevitable that people will sink to the lowest common denominator to try to make sense of the extremes between depravity and salvation. Again, Barna gives evidence of this: "It is critical that we keep in mind a fundamental principle of Christian communication: the audience, not the message, is sovereign." The evolution of his disconcerting ideology is significant. Even in Contemporary Christian Music began declaring Jesus Christ as Lord. Within a few years His name was replaced by the generic but proper title of God. Still too offensive for some, dilution occurred, filtering the name of God to He, Him, It, or to the non-specific cognomen, Love. Today, His name is reduced to a multitude of pseudonyms: The Man Upstairs; The Boss¡ The Big Guy; Chairman of the Board; My Higher Power; My Pal; and My Lover - ad nauseam¡ ad infinitum. This biblical illiteracy is theological Ebonics - biblical language diminished to cultural unintelligible chatter affirmed as profound, acceptable spiritual truth.

"Jesus is the Truth. We believe in Him, not merely in His words. He Himself is Doctor and Doctrine, Revealer and Revelation, the Illuminator and the Light of Men. He is exalted in every word of truth, because He is its sum and substance. He sits above the gospel, like a prince on His own throne. Doctrine is most precious when we see it distilling from His lips and embodied in His person. Sermons are valuable in proportion as they speak of Him and point to Him. A Christless gospel is no gospel and a Christless discourse is the cause of merriment to devils" (Spurgeon).

The Father of Lies..."
"False teachers are children of their father the devil, and ... want to do the desires of [their] father." Satan's influence among false teachers is profound. They teach these hellish lies because their "doctrines of demons" have their unholy inspiration from the prince of darkness himself: "whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies" (John 8:44).

Paul reminded Timothy that such people in the spiritual leadership who had shipwrecked the faith had to be "delivered over to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme" (1 Tim. 1:20).

In the early days of the church, Elymas the magician opposed the preaching of Paul and Barnabas and in particular tried to keep the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus away from the faith. "But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze upon him, and said, "You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?" (Acts 13:7-10). As Dr. MacArthur so pithily points out, "in that rebuke Paul exposes four characteristics of false teachers: they are deceitful, children of the devil, enemies of righteousness, and perverters of the gospel."

Among the chief characteristics of Satan and his followers is deception. Paul warns that in the end times the Antichrist will come in accord with the activity of Satan, "with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved" (2 Thes. 2:9-10). John tells us of "the great dragon [who] was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world" (Rev. 12:9; cf. 13:14; 20:3, 10).

Satan's number one objective is to infiltrate the church with error. He does not want to fight the church, he wants to join it!

Satan and his demon emissaries do their deceptive work usually through human beings and most often through religious leaders. Among such religious leaders are those who pose as Christians, whom Paul describes as "false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ" (2 Cor. 11:13). And no wonder, Paul goes on to explain, "for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness" (v. 14-15).

God's Word: The Full and Final Authority
"I will run in the way of Your commandments..." (Psalm 119:32).

Wycliffe once wrote concerning our duty to the Word of God: "The true Christian was intended by Christ to prove all things by the Word of God, all churches, all ministers, all teaching, all preaching, all doctrines, all sermons, all writings, all opinions, all practices. These are His marching orders. Prove all by the Word of God; measure all by the measure of the Bible; compare all with the standard of the Bible; weigh all in the balances of the Bible; examine all by the light of the Bible; test all in the crucible of the Bible. That which can abide the fire of the Bible, receive hold, believe, and obey. That which cannot abide the fire of the Bible, reject, refuse, repudiate, and cast away. This is the flag which He nailed to the mast. May it never be lowered!

A church which does not honor the Bible is as useless as a body without life, or a steam engine without fire. A minister who does not honor the Bible is as useless as a soldier without arms, a builder without tools, a pilot without compass, or a messenger without tidings. Stand fast on old principles. Do not forsake the old paths. Let nothing tempt you to believe that multiplication of forms and ceremonies, constant reading of liturgical services, or frequent communions, will ever do so much good to souls as the powerful, fiery, fervent preaching of God's Word. If men want to do good to the multitude, if they want to reach their hearts and consciences, they must attack them through their ears; they must blow the trumpet of the everlasting Gospel loud and long; they must preach the Word."

In the front of every Gideon Bible you will read these time-tested words:
"This book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers.

Its doctrine is holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be saved, practice it to be holy.

It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter. Here heaven is open, and the gates of hell are disclosed.

Christ is the grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, health to the soul, and a river of pleasure. It is given to you here in this life, will be opened at the judgment, and is established forever.

It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and condemn all who trifle with its contents."
–Author unknown

Faithful Stewards of God's Word are to:

1. Crave the Word – 1 Peter 2:2
2. Believe the Word – John 2:22
3. Love the Word – Psalm 119:97, 127-128
4. Long for the Word – Psalm 119:20, 40, 131
5. Delight in the Word – Psalm 1:2, 119:35, 143
6. Rejoice in the Word – Jeremiah 15:16, Psalm 119:111,162
7. Treasure the Word – Job 23:12, Psalm 19:10-11
8. Esteem the Word – Psalm 138:2, 1 Thessalonians 2:13
9. Reverence the Word – Psalm 119:161
10. Honor the Word – 2 Thessalonians 3:1
11. Trust in the Word – Psalm 119:42
12. Sing the Word – Psalm 119:54,172, Colossians 3:16
13. Meditate on the Word – Psalm 1:2; Joshua 1:8
14. Memorize the Word – Psalm 119:11, 16, 61, 128-129, 176
15. Abide in the Word – John 15:7, 1 John 2:23-25
16. Obey the Word – Deuteronomy 17:19-20, Joshua 22:5, Psalm 119:67, Luke 8:21, John 14:15, 17:6, 1 John 2:3-5, 5:2-3
17. Be Conformed by the Word – Psalm 119: 133, 1 Timothy 6:3, Titus 1:1
18. Not to be ashamed of the Word – Romans 1:16, 2 Timothy 1:8
19. Contend for the Word – Jude 3, Titus 1:9
20. Defend the Word – Philippians 1:7
21. Suffer for the Word – 2 Timothy 1:8
22. Do not neglect the Word – 1 Corinthians 9:16
23. Be empowered with the Word – 1 Thessalonians 1:5
24. Hope in the Word – Romans 15:4
25. Live the Word – Ezra 7:10, Philippians 1:27, James 1:22-25
26. Take heed to the Word – 1 Timothy 4:16
27. Rightly divide the Word – 2 Timothy 2:15, Nehemiah 8:8
28. Retain the standard of the Word – 2 Timothy 2:13-14
29. Read the Word – 1 Timothy 4:13; Colossians 4:16
30. Share the Word – 1 Thessalonians 1:8, 2 Thessalonians 3:1
31. Teach the Word – 2 Timothy 4:1-5
32. Exhort with the Word – 1 Timothy 4:13
33. Preach the Word – 2 Timothy 4:2
34. Tremble at His Word – Isaiah 66:2

Compare that with the Ways of the Wicked. They willingly:
1. corrupt the Word, 2 Cor. 2:17;
2. reject the Word, Jer. 8:9;
3. disobey the Word, Psalm 119:158;
4. wrest the Word, 2 Pt. 3:16;
5. speak not its truth, Isaiah 8:20;
6. hate its instruction, Psalm 50:16-17;
7. cannot understand it, I Corinthians 2:14;
8. they lay aside the Word, Mark 7:6-9; 9. heed doctrines of demons, 1 Timothy 4:1-2;
10. promote destructive heresies, 2 Peter 2:1;
11. are factious, Titus 3:9-10;
12. and proclaim another gospel, Galatians 1:6-8.

May we all guard the truth, guard the trust and guard our testimony so that by God's grace we can proclaim the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord to every generation until He returns!

His Unworthy Servant in His Unfailing Love,
Steve Camp
Psalm 119:54


JG Lenhart said...


I believe everything you wrote is correct, but it is abstract.

What is the definition of truth?
What is the definition of grace?
What is the definition of life?
What is the definition of love?

Don't go Henderson 4000 on me and give an incomplete analogy, a list of benefits (I Cor 13), or a contradictory definition...then you are "diluting" the word of God.

I've written this before, so let me say it once again: grace is "charis": the divine influence on the heart and its reflection in the life.

This definition fits EVERY passage for grace in the New Testament. Every other definition falls short.

To continue to ignore this definition on something so important as grace is akin to blasphemy.

Reread your fine article and look at it from the perspective of someone who TRULY wants the complete truth of God, not the same abstract superficial message we've had for years. Isn't this hindering that person?

Let's take this conversation deeper and intentionally help even more people. I think you are one of the few capable of doing it.

CovJack said...


Thanks for a great reminder of a powerful truth.

I appreciate your words about TBN. I marvel at how reputable teachers can still allow their programs to be broadcast on that network. Every time I flip past TBN I hear your song "Agony of Deceit" in my head.

My wife and I always wonder...why does God allow some to come to a saving knowledge of Christ through ministries like TBN? Isn't that lending authenticity to their message? Why would God wish to validate that ministry?

J. Brown

David B. Hewitt said...

Brother Camp:

An excellent post! I especially liked this part:

"Courage in Christian ministry, as well as in Christian living in general, is not possible apart from strong biblical convictions. Strong convictions are to be held and taught in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. When we defend God's Word in a self righteous, unloving spirit, the resulting controversy and opposition are not caused wholly by the offense of the truth itself but also by the offensive and unspiritual way in which we proclaim it. We are to defend God's Word in the faith, that is, with the right attitude of confidence toward God; and we are to defend it in love, with the right attitude of kindness and compassion."

Carry on and persever, my brother.


Sparks said...

JG Lenhart said...
"I've written this before, so let me say it once again: grace is "charis": the divine influence on the heart and its reflection in the life."

How about some reference links to support your definition of the Greek word "charis"?

Strong's Concordance lists 156 instances of the word Charis (Strongs #5485) in the New Testament. Here's an outline of the Biblical usage of the word:
1) grace
a) that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech

2) good will, loving-kindness, favour
a) of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues

3) what is due to grace
a) the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace
b) the token or proof of grace, benefit
1) a gift of grace
2) benefit, bounty

4) thanks, (for benefits, services, favours), recompense, reward

Reference link:

JG, the question of "what is truth?" has always been asked and will continue to be asked until Jesus returns in His glory and every knee shall bow before Him and know that He is Truth.

I believe the real divine influence on the heart and its reflection in the life is to know that Jesus is Truth.

May God bless you and guide you on your path brother.

JG Lenhart said...


Thanks for the link.

My physical copy of Strong's just lists the definition, which that link doesn't give. It gives usages...but no single usage applies to every instance in the New Testament.

This means the usages are more abstract than the specific definition. (I have an explanation of how definitions rank on "the ladder of abstraction" on my website.)

I believe we don't have to wait for Jesus to come back in order to determine what is truth and what the definition of truth is.

Isn't it alarming to you that people keep using words (truth, love, etc.) that they can't define?

How are they any different from post moderns who won't define their terms?

Why are they exempt from the requirements they place on others?

SavedandSure said...

Amen and amen!!

2 Timothy 4

RunningFree said...

love your blog, you have blessed me with your insights;

*re: The Word; the Full & Final Authority...this really is the clear, simple truth (sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul & spirit, joints & marrow; it judges the thoughts & attitudes of the heart: Hebrews 4:12)
-i love soaking up the many accounts of Jesus demonstrating his authority...(ie. Mark 1:21-28)&(Matt 28:18)& any anxiety in me just melts away,as His truth comes back into focus; truth that He is in control:)

Terry Rayburn said...

jg lenhart,

Having read some of your comments on the last few of Steve's posts regarding the Emerging Church, as well as your above comments under this post, please consider the following:

1. I believe you're making a big mistake in equating "abstract" with "superficial". Of course, even the words "abstract" and "superficial" are somewhat abstract, and "abstract" itself has six definitions as an adjective at

Some words simply demand abstract thinking. "Love" cannot be defined in the same sense that, say, "wire clothes hanger" can. Of course there are potential difficulties when using abstract words, but the solution is not in giving them "concrete" definitions.

You wrote,

"...grace is 'charis': the divine influence on the heart and its reflection in the life. This definition fits EVERY passage for grace in the New Testament. Every other definition falls short."

It's not true that this definition fits every passage for grace in the New Testament.

It might be a good definition for the grace that James speaks of, which God gives "to the humble". But it certainly doesn't catch the "unearned" concept which Ephesians 2:8 clearly focuses on (" grace you have been saved...not of works, lest any man should boast").

Nor does it capture the nuances of "grace" and "works" not being able to co-exist, as in Rom. 11:6 ("But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.")

2. "Meaning" sometimes has to be understood or apprehended beyond mere "definition".

"Sunset" might be defined as the apparent downward movement and disappearance of the sun in the Western horizon, caused by the rotation of the earth giving the optical illusion of the sun's moving downward. But if I'm holding hands with my wife and we say together, "Wow! Look at that Tennessee sunset!", there is more meaning than just the concrete definition.

This is especially true of the Word of God, which is why 1 Cor. 2:14 says, "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

3. We need to understand the concept of "antinomy". An antinomy is when two things seem to be a contradiction, but both are true, because the Word of God says they are. For example, we humans are able to exercise our will to make choices in our everyday lives (I won't complicate my example by using the term "free will", for now). This is, I believe, clear from Scripture.

Yet equally clear from Scripture is the sovereignty of God over all things, planned and decreed from before time, such that God does "whatever He pleases", and though man plans his ways, God directs his steps, and when man throws the dice, God determines the outcome.

These concepts appear to contradict each other, or have what you call "contradictory" definitions. Yet both are true according to the Word of God.

That's an antinomy, and the Bible is full of them. Why? Because God's ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts greater than our thoughts.

All this to say that "love", or "grace", or "life", or "truth" can't be forced down to the lowest rung of the Ladder of Abstraction, just so that we can chat with each other clearly.

Terry Rayburn

JG Lenhart said...

Mr. Rayburn,

I respectfully disagree.

All of those words can be driven down to specific definitions and it increases our understanding and ability to grow in these areas intentionally.

We are saved by grace through faith and it is a gift...but we need to understand faith and grace. Our salvation apparently depends on the definitions of these two words...if we have a faulty understanding of these two words, then we are going to do the wrong thing and expect to go to Heaven...that would be making OURSELVES God (the ultimate authority).

According to Hebrews 11:1, faith is two things: belief in something that hasn't happened yet (substance of things hoped for) and belief in something you can't see (evidence of things not seen).

Do you believe the sun will come up tomorrow? Has it come up tomorrow? This is an example of faith.

Do you believe in gravity? magnetism? electricity? Have ever seen any of these things? You've seen the effects of these things, but not the thing itself. This is an example of faith.

Hebrews 11:6 gives a quick check of this model. Without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to him, for he who comes to God must believe that he exists, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him.

We need faith to believe He exists because we can't see Him. We need faith to believe He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him because the reward hasn't happened yet.

Faith is proven by actions. Not by emotion. How silly would it be for me to yell out "Ohhhh, I beleive the sun is going to come up tomorrow!!!!" Faith is proven by actions and quiet confidence.

I'm a scientist. When people say that reason and faith don't go hand in hand, they are showing they have a different definition of faith than what is explained by the Bible.

How would you increase your faith? Get more knowledge and experience! Why do you believe the sun will come up tomorrow? Experience that it always has and knowledge that it occurs because the earth rotates. Why do you believe in magnetism, etc.

Experiential faith is the easiest to get and the easiest to lose. The disciples spent three years with Jesus and lost their faith in an instant because it was based on experience. Blessed are those who haven't seen and yet believe. Why? Because the faith is based on knowledge. It is harder to lose knowledge based faith.

Look through all the faith examples and you will see people who prove their faith and it is based on knowedge (reason?) and experience.

Look at the centurion (his explanation includes knowledge and experience AND it AMAZED Jesus), the disciples in the boat (Jesus said they had little faith and then referenced their lack of understanding and forgetfulness of experience with the loaves and fishes) Abraham, David, Gideon, etc. All of these people proved their faith through actions and it was ALWAYS based on knowledge and experience...not "just believing".

How can you have more faith in the next five minutes? Get more knowledge and experience with the object of your faith.

I'm getting more faith in Steve Camp as I get more experience with him and more knowledge from other things he's written.

Same goes for God. Get more experience and more knowledge of Him and you will have more faith.

But allow me to take this deeper. Grace is the divine influence on the heart and the reflection in the life.

So God is constantly influencing EVERYONE's heart...even "non-believers". (God's grace is on all.) It is the individual's choice whether they will let this influence direct their actions. NOT listen to this influence and personally work to do it.

How does one know if what they are hearing is from God or their flesh?

FAITH! When a person recognizes an influence on their heart, they are supposed to use faith (which is BASED on knowledge and is NOT knowledge and experience, it is a belief in something that hasn't happened yet or that we can't see) to determine if the influence is of the flesh or from God.

We are saved by grace through faith, it is a gift...We ultimately get no credit for salvation because the CAUSE is God. We respond to everything He provided to us (that we didn't ask for or make happen) by deciding whether we are going to let HIS influence reflect in our actions (works). He essentially does all the work and we are accountable because we choose to ignore His influence or let it come out.

The works are an EFFECT of the CAUSE which is grace. So works PROVE salvation but they are NOT the CAUSE of salvation.

So growing in grace involves letting God direct more and more of your actions...and this can be increased through knowledge and experience.

The two favorite responses for the people who want to remain unintentional are "We can't know..." and "We aren't supposed to know..."

If this is the case, then what is the point of reading the Bible, listening to a sermon, or having conversations on a blog?

Your actions and words show your heart...

JG Lenhart said...

Mr. Rayburn,

Let me also take the opportunity to recognize you are obviously an intelligent person who sees things deeper than others.

I appreciate that you recognize the current definitions people give for these key words are not specific.

It's amazing and sad the lengths some people will go to try and convince themselves they have a non-contradictory definition for these words... hinders their growth.

boxcarvibe said...

JG said:Look through all the faith examples and you will see people who prove their faith and it is based on knowedge (reason?) and experience

Jesus him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

JG said:How does one know if what they are hearing is from God or their flesh? FAITH!

...and all this time, I thought it was discernment that we were to use (as well as testing the spirits with the Word of God).

You're intelligent, JG...and I'm a simple man.

Romans says that faith comes by hearing...and hearing, by the Word of God. The faith that I sense you're talking about is the sun coming up tomorrow. The faith that says God created the earth in seven literal days...that Jonah was swallowed by the whale..and that Jesus rose bodily and will return again to reign over the earth is a different, higher that does not come by "having been there before", but trusting that God's Word is true, ala John 20: 29-31.

JG Lenhart said...


Faith does come by hearing because we it brings knowledge and experience.

Hearing the word of God should bring the ultimate knowledge and experience...and result in the ultimate faith.

JG Lenhart said...

One of the big breakthroughs people make when they realize these definitions is that they know the reason for understanding more not less.

When we interact with God, we are building experiences...and this builds faith. However, if the believer doesn't understand why God interacts with them the way He does in that particular circumstance, then when He interacts differently, the believer loses his faith.

God doesn't want us to stay solely experiential because this leads to an emotional belief.

The people who write on this blog (for the most part) are with the group who wants to keep EVERYTHING experiential as it relates to God.

However, if you stay loving towards these people, you will be the first person they come to when they don't get the answer they wanted from God. At that point it is a three step process to show their persepective is flawed AND welcome them back to the fold...

...or is our intention to make this conversion happen in immediately on our timing and at our convenience?

Don't you want to help others understand more and build their faith?

What is our REAL objective?... know, the one that is shown in our actions.

JG Lenhart said...


The one sentence should read:

The people who write on this blog (for the most part) are FRUSTRATED with the group who wants to keep EVERYTHING experiential as it relates to God.

I lost the word "frustrated"...

...this group is definitely interested in the word and building understanding.

Sparks said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
CovJack said...

I'm intrigued by this quote from George Barna in Steve's article, referring to how a postmodern audience hears the gospel: "...proposing Jesus Christ as the solution to a person's sin problem is not likely to make any significant impression."

I'd be interested to hear more about what Barna is getting at. On its own, this quote seems only to be stating an observational fact--postmodern audiences do "tune out" when you start talking about sin, but must we always start immediately with the "sin problem" in presenting the gospel to people? Is Barna proposing that we drop sin and redemption completely as themes, or is he advocating a different approach that starts from a different place? I would hate to judge him on that quote without hearing more of what he's arguing.

At the Areopagus, Paul didn't start with the "sin problem." He began with the audience's perception of who God is. I find that is a great approach when addressing a postmodern crowd. Once they are awakened to the reality of a sovereign God, then speaking relationally about that God leads to a natural exposition of sin and its effect on us.

Barna seems to be stating a simple fact. If he's advocating more, I'd like to know more about it.

J. Brown

littlegal_66 said...

covjack said: "I'm intrigued by this quote from George Barna in Steve's article, referring to how a postmodern audience hears the gospel: '...proposing Jesus Christ as the solution to a person's sin problem is not likely to make any significant impression.'"

I'm so glad you brought that up, because that was one of two quotes from Barna that really struck me. My initial thought in response to the above quote was this: "Any attempt at a solution to a person's sin problem other than through Jesus Christ is not likely to meet with any significant success."

Another Barna quote states: "It is critical that we keep in mind a fundamental principle of Christian communication: the audience, not the message, is sovereign." Can you imagine what Charles Spurgeon's reaction might have been to that statement? Or, much more profound: imagine one of the disciples saying that to Christ after He delivered the "Sermon on the Mount".....!

Steve said: "Methodology matters; and just as important, the 'who' you partner with in the work of the gospel as well." So true. (And BTW, as a sidenote--if any of you have extra time on your hands, check out: Barna's latest article. He is in the midst of forming new partnerships even as we blog).

Denise said...

I was channeling surfing last night and came across TBN. Greg Boyd was teaching his Open Theism there, and the host was eating it up.

Interestingly Boyd said it was while in school (Princeton---the guest host stopped to brag about how Boyd also went to Yale and they all applauded him) that he started to mull over the Free will issue and how God must not really know all things...that He is dependant upon man to learn something. Absolute blasphemy.

Is 40: 13 Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? 14 Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?

donsands said...

Wonderful post. Too much to eat in one sitting, but great to read.

The Word of God is a sharp two-edged sword, it cuts deep, right down to the soul. And this is what we need. It can be quite unpleasant, but still rewarding. Convicting and refreshing. There's nothing like hearing the Word of God with understanding, and also speaking it with love and thanksgiving, as we adhere to every command and charge that is presented to us throughout its entirety.

Thanks Steve for putting all this together.

BTW, I saw Benny Hinn today on TV, and he said he needed some money,($6,000,000), in order to by a jet from Kenneth Copeland, so that he can travel the globe to save souls. Difficult to watch, but I was killing some time on my vacation.

Bhedr said...


Perhaps Benny should tell Kenneth to plant a seed and ask him to give it to him.

Terry Rayburn said...


To my surprise, brother, you really didn't address a single issue that I brought forth, but only reiterated and/or expanded your theories.

I sure don't want to re-write my whole post, but you didn't address the following:

- my statement that you can't equate "abstract" with superficial;

- my statement that some words demand abstract thinking;

- my statement that your definition of "grace" doesn't address the "unearned" aspect of grace in Eph. 2:8 and Rom. 11:6;

- my statement that "meaning" goes beyond "definition";

- my statements regarding "antinomy";

- my statement that "love", etc. can't be lowered to the bottom rung of the Ladder of Abstraction.

Your complete ignoring of these points is amazing!

I don't believe you've demonstrated the truth of your rather odd theories, and I think the main reasons are as follows:

1. You don't understand the primacy of regeneration, which biblically precedes faith. Once regeneration takes place, and the spirit is made a new creation, then saving faith is unavoidable.

For example, you stated, "Our salvation apparently depends on the definitions of these two words [grace and faith]...if we have a faulty understanding of these two words, then we are going to do the wrong thing and expect to go to Heaven..."

There is no verse of Scripture that would support this. Our salvation is dependent on God's Spirit, like the wind, blowing where it will, and giving us new life (faith being thrown in with the package, as a gift).

2. You don't understand the importance of context in determining the meaning of a word.

When you say that a certain definition of a word (e.g., "grace") is the same no matter where it appears in the Bible, you are denying one of the most basic principles of interpretation, that is, the context in which a word is found.

3. You are mixing grace with works.

And as Paul said, that makes grace no longer grace. (Of course, if grace were merely God's "influence" on us, as you wrongly assert, then works could be added to that so-called grace, with no problem.)

I certainly agree with you that our works demonstrate true faith, but that is a separate issue from "grace", which is totally "unmerited" from beginning to end (again, otherwise it's not grace).

You state, "So God is constantly influencing EVERYONE's heart...even "non-believers". (God's grace is on all.) It is the individual's choice whether they will let this influence direct their actions.

You thereby leave it up to us, whether or not we "let" God influence us effectively.

What the Scripture says is that " is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Phil. 2:13) Not just to "influence", but to "will" and "work".

Just a few other verses that clearly demonstrate that God does more than just "influence" us:

Proverbs 21:1, "The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes."

Proverbs 16:9, "The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs [literally 'fixes'] his steps."

Ezekiel 36:27, "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes..."

Finally, I agree with you that reason and faith can co-exist just fine. God doesn't ask us to shelve our brains, and I admire your efforts to apply your science to theology.

But in doing so, I think you have widely missed the mark, and have substituted the grandeur of Christ (Who is our Life), and the "abstract" wonder of His grace and love, for a confusing blackboard of equations, formulas, and bottom-rung definitions.

I fear I write in vain, however, since I'm still stunned at your bypassing of the points in my first post, as if I'd never made them.


jg lenhart said...

Mr. Rayburn,

Shortly after the previous post, I wrote you a personal e-mail.

I shared with you that I believe I did address two of your points (unmerited nature of grace and defining words specifically).

I also related that I thought it would take a lengthy post to respond to all your issues and that would take us off point. I also made the offer to respond to all your points including giving you a non-contradictory definition of "love".

Since I have yet to receive a reply at the time of this post, I can only assume you are busy or the e-mail didn't go through considering how related that you really wanted me to respond to all the points.

My premise is simple: Post moderns don't believe we can know anything for sure.

Traditionalists/fundamentalists believe we can only know what we already know. As you stated so well, they don't believe we can define the key terms we use everyday to a specific level.

It seems this group explains these key words with examples and incomplete analogies, BUT calls the post moderns heretics for not being able to define their words or defining them wrong. WOW!

I believe we can know these key terms specifically. I explained this in the ooze article titled, "The Problem with Modernism".

Not only can we know what "love" means, we can alos know what we mean when we say, "I love you." It may sound simple, but think about it for a second...

If love is an emotion, then it is not something we can control. Love is something we are supposed to be able do EVEN WHEN WE DON'T FEEL LIKE IT.

If love is something we do, then isn't telling somebody "I love you" bragging or drawing attention to something we do...which isn't love according to I Cor 13.

We use that word is hugely important...and you don't think we can know what it means?

The Blainemonster said...

Steve - Absolutely great article. Another issue ancillary to the ones you raised is the tendency of folks to exalt or lionize a preacher instead of discerning the content of his message. That is to say, people who are drawn to this church or that church because they prefer a man's personality or "preaching style". I've never heard a church-hopper say, "well, we just felt like that Pastor wasn't strong enough doctrinally."

The age-old battle is to keep Truth at the forefront.

Elizabeth Davis said...

Thank you so much for this blog entry! I agree wholeheartedly and am extremely encouraged by your focus on the all-satisfying Word of God.

The five things used as a measuring rod for ministry (the message, the motives, the methods, the messenger, and the money) were a great way to gauge the biblical validity of any ministry. I also liked how you broke up the list of commands to faithful steward God's Word and the list of how the wicked sit in regards to His Word.

The compromises of the Emergent Movement has always been unsettling to me and I feel quite a responsibility to exhort those around me with the truths of God's Word in regard to the movement's weak view of God. Thank you again!

Elizabeth Davis said...

Opps....grammatical error: "The compromises of the Emergent Movement have always been unsettling to me..."

Darrin said...

Great post, Steve. How crucial the Word is for us.

In case anyone's interested, apparently the words attributed to Wycliffe were actually written by JC Ryle about Wycliffe, and can be found in this document:

Looks like a good read, as I believe is always the case with Ryle.